Wednesday, October 10, 2012

NAMI Social Group Event

 • Get immunized • Get a Sandwich • Get Registered to Vote 

Where: North Valley Mental Health Basement
When: October 18th from 11:30 am -1:30 pm
1. The Salt Lake Valley Health Department, in conjunction with North Valley Mental Health staff, will get you up to date on immunizations, including the flu shot. They will hold separate presentations in the weeks prior to the event to give you information and answer questions. Please watch for posted information at North Valley Mental Health. Immunizations will be given on the 18th.

2. The Disability Law Center will do a presentation on the 18th about your voting rights and be available to help you to register online in the computer room adjacent to the cafeteria area in the basement.

3. The usual sandwiches will be available. It will be helpful to know how many people are planning on coming so that we know how many sandwiches we will need. Please call or email Jackie if you are planning on attending. Jackie’s telephone number/voicemail is: 801-869-2872. Email address is: I will need this information no later than October 13th .

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

NAMI Community Partner Walk Events!

AFSP: Out of the Darkness walk. Click HERE to register and for more information.

USARA: Utah Recovery Day events across the state. Click HERE for more information.

Utah County HOPE Task Force's 8th Annual Suicide Prevention Walk. For more information contact: Amanda Shields 801-616-9137 or Cathy Bledsoe 801-374-4802

Friday, August 10, 2012

Week in Review: August 6-10

Here is this week's "Week in Review." These are articles, information and updates too good not to share, (and too good not to share multiple times!) Click on the links to learn more. Have you found something worth sharing?! Let us know. E-mail with any stories, articles or information about mental health that you think is worth sharing.

Michael Angelakos, lead singer of Passion Pit: Photo credit: Rolling Stone

Passion Pit Lead Singer on Battling Mental Illness from Rolling Stone Magazine

Finding Your Own Way: Learning to Live with Bipolar Disorder

Navy Video Contest on Suicide Prevention

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Being Treated for Depression

Affordable Care Act Has Benefits for People With Psychiatric Illness

Correlation Between Mental Illness and Obesity

New Content on ECT

The Proposed DSM-5 Alterations and Altercations

Letter from a Grateful Parent

Friday, August 3, 2012

Week in Review- July 30-August 3

This week I have found a number of articles that I wanted to share. Re-Tweeting them or posting them all to Facebook didn't seem to be sufficient (as there were tons I wanted to share!) So it's Friday and I thought I would institute a new section on our blog.

Every Friday we will share articles, stories and interesting news that didn't make it on to our Facebook or Twitter (or did and were too important or cool not to share multiple times!)

So here is your Week in Review: 

The Science Behind Yoga

Out of the Darkness Walk: September 15th at Sugarhouse Park

Rep. Jackson Reveals Treatment for Depression

The Interplay of Stigma, Culture and Disease

NAMI Utah Open House: Video of Speeches: Listen to our amazing speakers from the Open House share their courageous stories!

Do you have articles, links, resources, or topics you'd like to see covered? Send us a note in the comment section or e-mail Mary:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Supreme Court Ruling Huge for Mental Health Care

The Supreme Court ruled on June 28 to uphold the majority of the federal health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including important protections for people with mental illnesses. Thanks to the ruling, Utah will be able to continue moving forward to establish a health insurance exchange, which under the law, must include coverage for mental health care and must adhere to the mental health parity law. People buying health insurance in these exchanges may qualify for premium subsidies or financial help to ensure they can afford the coverage they need.
Utah will also be able to go ahead with plans to expand to Medicaid to cover all who have annual incomes up to 138 percent of federal poverty guidelines ($15,400) and who are not certified as disabled. Many of the people who will benefit from this change, which takes effect in 2014, live with a mental illness but are not considered 'disabled' and this is an important move to ensure they can access the treatment and services they need.

The court's decision will mean that children and young adults can remain on their parent’s health insurance plans until age 26 as well. This is typically the largest group of people who are without insurance and an age when people often experience their first psychotic episode.  New plans will also have to offer preventive services, such as mental health screenings, at no cost to the individual.  The court’s ruling will ensure people will be able to access the screening and treatment they need, when they need it.  The court also upheld a provision barring insurance companies from denying people coverage because they have a pre-existing condition, including a mental illness. This means that people will no longer be unable to obtain health insurance simply because they live with a mental illness nor will they be able to be charged much higher premiums based on their health status. The ruling is a huge victory for the mental health community and NAMI Utah applauds the Supreme Court for upholding these important provisions of the health reform law. For a detailed analysis of the implications of the decision, visit SCOTUSBlog.
For additional reading on the ACA and mental health care in Utah click HERE.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Scrabble, Songs, and Sandwiches

Today [June 7, 2012] I visited NAMI's Social Group, which used to be called Soup Group, until we quit serving soup and started serving sandwiches, but Sandwich Group didn’t have quite the same ring to it. We recently had to move our office and with the change we decided to hold the group elsewhere while we transition. Jackie, T.J. and Rick have been running Social Group at the North Valley Mental Health facility since our move. Since then, I have had limited interaction with those individuals who benefit from the services NAMI provides. I have been so busy in my own world, the move, our recent Open House, other daily tasks, not to mention everything outside of work! So I have been looking forward to attending Social Group and talking with some of the folks who attend.
Recently the number of participants in social group has grown. Between 30 and 40 people have been coming consistently for a few months now. I want to share with you some of the great things I saw from our participants.

*I have changed the names of some of the individuals I spoke with for confidentiality purposes.

Jackie and I arrived at the basement of North Valley around 11:25 a.m. and while group doesn’t start until 11:30 a.m., people were already in line for their sandwich. Jackie introduced me to everyone and while I thought they might be a little skeptical that I was there to “write about them”, I was wrong! Everyone was immediately friendly and welcoming. One man, John, quickly pulled out the Scrabble board and challenged me to a game. I love Scrabble and can never turn down a game, so I was more than happy to comply!

I let John finish his sandwich while I set up the game, and his large bites indicated this might have been his first meal of the day. Jackie told me on the way over that many participants were part of the mental health court system. Social Group is one of the only places they can go for a meal, a welcoming smile, and interactions with people who “get it.” People who have been through similar situations and know what it feels like to go through the “system.”

John and I started our game. We went on a few rounds, before he had to go take his meds. So we took a short break and I went to talk to another gentleman, Leo, who was Native American. Jackie has told him she used to work for the Indian Health Service and he brought some items to share including small figurines that he had carved himself, some corn pollen, and a pipe. He went through each of the items showing me his handy work. The small figurines were intricately carved with various stone and he explained each one to me. I marveled at his handy work!

John came back and we got back in the game. John seemed to be experiencing fixed delusions as his conversation got a little hard to follow. When I asked Jackie later what his diagnosis was she said she didn’t know. She told me that she never asks what someone’s diagnosis is because it doesn’t affect her interaction or relationship with them. “I see them first as people; I don’t see them as their illness,” she explains to me, “They are welcomed in as people just as I would welcome anyone into any social circle of mine.” I couldn’t agree more.

Most of the time we were playing, the gentleman to my right was strumming his mandolin. It was the perfect background noise, and his tunes were amazing. He told me that he had only been playing for a couple of years; he had taken lessons previously but for the most part he was teaching himself. Although he was a little slow in his conversation, he was extremely intelligent, explaining some of the notes for me as I watched in awe.

John kicked my butt in Scrabble, although I did hold my own for a while there. We ended our game as people were slowly filtering out; moving on to the next appointment or meeting. These folks are some of the coolest people I’ve had the opportunity to interact with in quite some time. They come to this group to exercise their social skills and be with people who understand them and don’t ask questions. They get a nice meal of sandwiches purchased from Valley Catering Services and amazing desserts generously donated by Russ Juillerat of World's Finest Chocolate. They know that the group will be there for them. Jackie, T.J. and Rick are on hand to answer any questions that may come up and resources are distributed to the participants. (This week Jackie handed out discounted prescription cards.)

I can’t stress the importance of this group enough. On average 20 individuals who attend social group are in the mental health court system. The mental health court system is designed to help prevent them from re-offending.  Fostering healthy relationships is an important part of preventing relapses.  The Social Group provides an opportunity for everyone to interact in an environment that’s safe and welcoming.

I had an amazing experience at Social Group. I want the community and our supporters to know about this program and to give them a renewed desire to advocate on behalf of those living with a mental illness, because as Jackie said, we're all people, first and foremost.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Annual Advocacy Day for Children and Adolescents

On May 11th, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) hosted more than 200 child and adolescent psychiatrists and family members affected by mental illness for its annual Advocacy Day in Washington, DC. The event brought together physicians, parents of children with mental illness, and youth advocates to promote children’s mental health issues on Capitol Hill.

Wendy Fayles, NAMI Utah Programs Director, took part in the event, meeting with the staff from the offices of Senator Orrin Hatch, Senator Mike Lee, Representative Jim Matheson and Representative Jason Chaffetz to address issues related to access to child mental health services, the shortage of child mental health specialists in our community, and funding for children’s mental health programs.

“The thing that impacted me the most,” Wendy noted, “was the map showing the shortages of child and adolescent psychiatrists in Utah (map). I have talked to a number of parents whose children are on waiting lists several months long to see a psychiatrist. After looking at the map, I understand why. One of the things we asked our legislators to do was support funding for pediatric mental health loan repayment in this year’s appropriations, which would encourage more physicians to choose child psychiatry—a specialty that requires an extra two years of training and as much as $150k in additional student loan debt.”

To learn more about mental health statistics affecting Utah’s youth, click on the attached link.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Open Your Mind, Open Your Heart

On Thursday May 17, 2012 NAMI Utah will host an Open House fundraiser. The event will feature a silent auction, food, music, and an official ribbon-cutting ceremony with honored guests Ann Cannon, Julie de Azevedo Hanks, and members of the Salt Lake Police Department with NAMI Executive Director, Rebecca Glathar.

Join us as we celebrate help, hope and healing and open minds to recovery and resiliency. With live music from world-renown classical guitarist, Michael Lucarelli, guest speakers including Olympic snowboarder Graham Watanabe and critically acclaimed blogger Heather Armstrong, food and beverage from Culinary Crafts and Tin Angel CafĂ©, desserts from Ye Olde Cupcake Shoppe, a silent auction, and fabulous art donated by professional artists across the state of Utah, this will be an evening you won’t want to miss!

We have some great pieces of art already coming in to our office for the art auction! Check them out and be sure to bid on May 17th!
Morag Totten
Preston Wood
Cat Palmer
Jane Wright

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

NAMI Utah Says Good Bye and Good Luck to Staff Member, Liz Felt

One of NAMI Utah’s amazing mental health champions and mentors, Liz Felt, is leaving us for a new position with UNI’s Mobile Crisis Team.

Liz first became involved with NAMI when she was asked by a friend to speak to her Family-to-Family class about her experience with mental illness. Liz fell in love with the support and empathy the class members provided for each other and their family members. She took BRIDGES, loved it, and began volunteering by teaching BRIDGES in the Salt Lake County Jail. Liz was soon hired by NAMI Utah as a Consumer Mentor and held that position for six years! She co-facilitated the Utah Mental Heath Recovery Network (our consumer council), taught in the Salt Lake County Jail, she has overseen the Artists’ Project and supported artists thriving in the art community, was a huge advocate and supporter of NAMI (and still will be I'm sure!!) and served as a mentor on Valley Mental Health’s Jail Diversion Outreach Team.

While we will surely miss her here at NAMI, we know that Liz will continue to do fantastic work as part of the crisis team at UNI. We couldn’t be more excited for her new position, or sadder that she will no longer grace our office with her wonderful energy and positive attitude! We love you Liz!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Valley Mental Health Expands Services

 Release from Valley Mental Health:

SALT LAKE CITY, Mar. 13, 2012 – Valley Mental Health, Inc., a private, non-profit organization providing and promoting accessible, quality behavioral and physical health care, has expanded its service offerings by launching assertive community-based outreach teams. Serving adults and children, these teams bring mental health and substance abuse services directly to people in need – no matter where they are.

“Assertive, community-based outreach teams are a return to Valley’s past, as well as an example of how we will grow in the future,” said Gary Larcenaire, president and CEO of Valley Mental Health. “These teams allow us to meet the needs of the people we are entrusted to serve in their own communities.”

With the client as the center of the team, the adult Assertive Outreach Team is designed to promote clients’ growth and recovery, while enhancing their personal, family and community life. Together the clients and team work to reduce barriers, facilitate access, and increase the knowledge and skills necessary to obtain individual desired outcomes and aspirations.

The children’s i-WRAP Team (intensive wrap-around services) strives to reduce the frequency and duration of acute and long-term hospitalizations, residential placements and higher levels of care, while improving the quality of life of children and their families.

Based in the community, the teams consist of medical staff, social workers, therapists, case managers, family advocates and peer specialists. They will use assessments, questionnaires, surveys and other quantifiable methods to measure outcomes.

About Valley Mental Health

Valley Mental Health is a not-for-profit organization that serves Salt Lake, Summit and Tooele counties. Since 1987, we have provided comprehensive treatment and services for people of all ages who are experiencing serious mental illnesses, substance use disorders and behavior problems. We believe people are best served in the least restrictive setting where care is tailored to the individual's needs, with families and community partners playing an important role in a person's recovery.  For more information please see

Monday, February 27, 2012

NAMI Utah is Moving!

Beginning March 9, 2012 our new address is:
1600 West 2200 South Suite 201
West Valley City, UT 84119

Everything else will stay the same including our phone number: 801-323-9900

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Would Happen if you Had to Jump Through Hoops to Get the Mental Health Medication that Works for you?

NAMI Utah has taken an opposing stance on Senate Bill 85. SB 85 is a bill that will put mental health drugs on the Medicaid Preferred Drug List. You can read the bill in it's entirety here.

Some history on the bill: In 2007, the Utah Medicaid Program implemented a "Preferred Drug List" which included an exemption for psychotropic or antipsychotic drugs. 

NAMI Utah has been involved with this discussion to maintain the exemption for medications used to treat mental illness for many years now. This exemption is critical in keeping those who live with mental illness healthy and productive. 

NAMI takes an opposing position to this bill because treatment does work if people can access it. Having access to the medications this vulnerable population needs based on their physician's best clinical judgement can make all the difference in the outcomes for people and in helping them live full and productive lives in the community.
You cannot simply look at pharmacy costs in treating mental illness. It costs the state $3,200 to maintain someone with serious mental illness in the community. It costs the same amount to hospitalize someone for three days. That can be just one medication change. Individuals living with serious mental illness have complex conditions that require individualized treatment. Adding a level of bureaucracy to the process of accessing medications will be a deterrent to individuals complying.
It is important to note that two very expensive (and effective) psychotropics have gone generic this year (Zyprexa, Seroquel). This is significant because this shows how the market takes care of itself to regulate these medications, and their costs.
Talking points to use in your conversation to your Senator: 

1.) Mental illness and the medications for treatment can be very complicated.  Missed doses, discontinuation, or changes in doses or specific medication can result in serious relapses which can result in devastating consequences for individuals, families and our communities. 

2.) Prescribers must be able to use their best clinical judgment when prescribing psychotropic medications.  With mental illness, people often have to try many medications and different combinations to find relief of their symptoms and to move on to recovery. 

3.) Because compliance is critical for treatment success, side effects can be very serious, and there is not a “one-size-fits all” solution, medications for mental illness should remain exempt from the Preferred Drug List. 

Please write to your legislators and tell them to oppose SB 85. Need help finding your legislator? Click here to search by your district.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

For Parents of Children with Bipolar Disorder

Andy Hogan is a guest blogger for NAMI Utah. These thoughts are his and his alone. Here is his story:

“…It’s like you’re drowning right in front of me, and I’m reaching out but you can’t see,
There’s something holding on to you so tight, so I guess this is all I’ll say to you tonight: If you ever need me, you know where to find me, I will be waiting, where I’ve always been…right by your side.”  -Matthew West

I love the message of this song. It describes well an emotion that so many parents experience as they watch their child battle bipolar disorder. When I say “child” I mean child of all ages. Parents are parents no matter how old their children get. Almost all parents love their children deeply and it rips their hearts apart to see a child suffer all the emotional, spiritual, and physical agony that depression and mania can cause.

My parents are no exception. Growing up I had symptoms of depression and mania, but no one suspected they could become as extreme as they did. At 19 I went to Taiwan on a volunteer mission for my church. My assignment was for around 24 months. However, after just ten months, my parents received a phone call I’m sure they will never forget.

The phone conversation went something like this, “Your son is experiencing some kind of psychotic breakdown. He can’t respond to simple questions. He has been restrained in a church house. Sometimes he screams out, or bursts into hysterical laughter followed by crying like a baby. This and other very bizarre behavior has gone on for several hours. He even bit another missionary on the leg. Can you tell me what is happening and what we should do?” 

I can’t imagine the anguish my parents suffered during that time in my life. I think any parent that receives this type of news suffers similarly. My parents had a small understanding of what was happening because my mother had been diagnosed with mental illness years before. She too had suffered a mental break breakdown. It’s hard to say if this personal understanding was helpful or hurtful though because my parents knew all-too-well the anguish I was suffering, and they also knew this was only the first explosion of a lifelong war.

Under the direction of my parents, my leader along with some other missionaries in Taiwan took me to a hospital where sedative injects were the only option to gain control. So much medication was needed to put me under that I didn’t consciously wake up for a whole week. When I finally “came to,” I found myself back in the USA locked in the psychiatric ward of a hospital. My parents made a two hour drive every day to see me during visiting hours.

As I tried to figure out just what happened to me and how I should deal with it, my first reaction was to throw blame at my parents for things they had said and done while raising me. As I cried and criticized them during our therapy sessions they were very loving and willing to try and correct things from our past. I’m sure they knew that my problem was more “nature” and less “nurture” (meaning the chemistry in head was the main cause of my bipolar disorder, not the way they raised me) but they were willing to try and help in any way they could, even if it meant me pointing my finger at them, all the while not being willing to admit, in even the smallest way, that any of my attitudes or personality traits needed to be corrected as well.
How much love does it take for parents to willingly take verbal lashings of criticism and blame for a life-shattering breakdown when they know they weren’t the reason for it? As they say in Chinese: A great big pile of love. Looking back at it now, 20 years later, I can see the love my parents showed me was similar to another great and loving Person who lived a perfect life, but willingly suffered the pain of every person, just hoping that by doing so some of us wouldn’t have to hurt so much.

The issues of my past with my parents were important to address and talk about. I’m sure my parents would be the first to admit that imperfections in their parenting cast loops and knots into the attitudes and thought processes I reeled in during my childhood and teenage years. Add to the snarl the fact that during that time, my mother was also fishing for understanding of mental illness with many of the same kinks and twists in her own line, and you get a very tangled mesh of influences. I’m pretty good at untangling messed-up fishing lines, but sometimes the best way to fix the problem is to simply cut the line, discard the tangles, and restart with the line you have remaining in your reel.  Sadly, at that point in my life I focused only on the tangles and didn’t appreciate or even acknowledge that at the end of my parents’ line was a golden hook of love stuck in the belt loop of my waist that lifted me up and saved me from drowning again and again.

After a month in the hospital I was reassigned to Montana to continue my volunteer mission. There, after just three months, I quit taking my medication and suffered another breakdown even more severe than the first one. Once again, my parents got the frantic phone call. Living in a neighboring state, Mother and Dad were able to get a quick flight to Bozeman. Arriving at the psychiatric ward, the staff of the Bozeman hospital informed them I had been given sedative injections to stop the psychotic madness. The nurse led them to the padded, locked holding cell where I was asleep on a thin mat on the floor.

When I awoke, the psychosis had cycled to depression. This meant I was sane, but very down and extremely anxious in mind and body. When the hospital told my parents they wouldn’t allow my release until the next day, my loving father couldn’t stand the thought of me in the cell alone all night. So he came in and spent what felt like an eternal night with me locked inside the padded room. More injections through the night forced me to sleep, but interrupted what little sleep Dad had. I slept on the mat and he tossed and turned on the cold, tile floor. Although I was drugged and loopy, blue as toilet water, confused, cold and stripped of any dignity, the love my father showed me that night touched my heart in a way I had never felt before.

The next day, my parents flew with me back to my home state. Straight from the airport, they immediately drove me to a local clinic for behavioral medicine. As they started filling out the paperwork to check me in, my mother asked the director what their program was like. The director described a program with strict enforcement of curfews, early morning rising, and busy, intense therapy. Feeling like I was being checked into a boot camp, fear caused my body to tremble and shake. I knew I had no say in whether or not the clinic was for me. I’ll never forget the relief and gratitude I felt when my mother lovingly looked at me, tore up the registration papers and said, “Andy doesn’t need this. Let’s go home.”  The night with my dad and the understanding of my mother sparked warmth in my heart that began the thaw of my ice-hard stubbornness.

Choosing to bring me home did not make life for my parents easier. Rather, it was “the hard way.” Although a trickle of refined, clean humility had started to clear my eyes and allow me to see glimpses of my parents’ love for me, in my brain, bipolar disorder was now a raging, roaring, full-blown flash flood. To someone observing my manic depressive storm from a distance, the love my parents showed me during that tumultuous time would seem as obvious as a giant rainbow gleaming through the pouring rain. But through the following weeks, months, and even years, I kept my eyes focused mostly on the muddy memories of manic yesterdays, and my hands grasping for a sandy future that the bipolar flood had washed away. Choosing to swim my bipolar flood alone and face down in the cyclone waters of denial, ignorance, and confusion, my parents could only watch as my life continued to spiral lower and lower. When the inevitable crush of rock bottom forced me to admit I needed help and to realize I couldn’t get back afloat alone, guess who was there to mop up my tears, take me by the hand, and lovingly start lifting me back up? Of course, it was the ones who had been there all along; my parents.  

In conclusion, I’d like to offer this to my parents and all parents of children with bipolar disorder or any other mental illness. Thank you can’t be said enough times for your love, patience, and care. For too many years the pain and confusion of my own suffering blinded me to yours. You suffered as much or more than I did! But you never despaired nor abandoned me, and when I finally looked inward to find the problem and outward for help, instead of the other way around, I finally saw and appreciated that your love was a precious gift that I had been taking for granted. Now I know you are the unsung heroes of my bipolar war; the ones who had and continue to have my back in every battle. Thank you. Thank you.

To those parents whose children are still so blinded by the pain and confusion of their bipolar battles that they don’t see how much you suffer in their behalf, won’t hear the healing words you offer, and can’t appreciate or even feel the love you carry for them, I just want to say, thank you for caring and thank you for continuing to try. I believe as long as you don’t give up, your children will always have hope. Keep trying, keep praying, and continue on where you’ve always been…right by their sides.    

Andy Hogan

Andy has a “Bipolar Blog” at

To submit your own story to be featured on the NAMI Utah blog contact Mary Burchett